A surfboard leash seems like one of those little accessories that you add on and don’t put too much thought into, but I’d say it’s just as important as the surfboard itself.
For one thing, it keeps your board within reach so you’re not swimming to the beach every time you fall off a set wave. And less swimming means more surfing! A leash also saves your board from getting smashed against the rocks, or worse, smashed against another person in a crowded lineup.
So when it’s time to get a new surfboard leash, it’s worth looking at a few options to make sure this piece of gear won’t fail you. While leash technology hasn’t made huge strides in recent years, there are definitely features that I think set certain leashes apart from the rest.
My favorite feature is a silicone grip inside the cuff that keeps the leash from twisting around your ankle—it’s a must-have for any new leash I buy. And if you surf big waves or big boards, some leashes have a quick-release feature on the ankle cuff in the event something goes wrong. (I’ll share which ones they are in the list below!)
To help you choose the best surfboard leash for the money (and skip the ones that are kind of silly for an everyday surfer), here are six of my favorites (updated for 2022).
Disclosure: All products on this page are independently selected. If you buy from one of my links, I may earn a commission.
- Best surfboard leashes: at a glance
- Best surfboard leashes: in depth
- What to look for before buying a surfboard leash
- How long do surfboard leashes last?
- Taking care of your surfboard leash
Best surfboard leashes: at a glance
- Best all-around leash: FCS All-Round Essential
- Best premium leash: FCS Freedom Helix
- Best budget leash: Catch Surf Beater
- Best sustainable leash: Wave Tribe Eco
- Best longboard ankle leash: Dakine Longboard Ankle
- Best longboard calf leash: Creatures of Leisure Reliance Longboard Knee
Best surfboard leashes: in depth
Best all-around leash: FCS All-Round Essential
When it comes to surf brands, FCS is one of the most trusted. This OG manufacturer revolutionized the surf industry when it launched a line of removable surfboard fins, and its continues to innovate with its surfboard leashes. As far as any leash goes, FCS is one of the best and it was the first leash I ever bought for my board nearly 15 years ago!
The FCS All-Round Essential is exactly that: an all-around surfboard leash that’s reliable, durable, comfortable, and priced right. The extended overmould (which wraps a portion of the cord below the swivel) minimizes tangling. There’s a sturdy Hypalon pull tab for ease of release and a silicone grip in the cuff that keeps it from slipping around your ankle (this is a great feature to have).
The leash is built for waves from 2 to 8 feet which makes it suitable as a daily driver for all conditions. It’s sized for shortboards and funshape boards and comes in a wide range of colors and color combos (from almond, yellow, and orange on the lighter end to camo, navy, and black on the darker end) if you like to match leashes to your boards.
If you can only buy one leash, this is the one to get.
Cord thickness: 7mm
Available lengths: 6′, 7′, 8′, 9′
Best premium leash: FCS Freedom Helix
FCS shows up here again as my pick for the best premium surfboard leash. This one is a bit spendier than the FCS All-Round Essential that I recommend above, but the premium features justify the price tag.
The first thing that sets the FCS Freedom Helix apart from other leashes is its helix cord, a very strong, lightweight cord made from a naturally-sourced, corn-based material called bio-resin. This is as light as it gets without going to a comp leash!
The inner helix construction straightens under load to absorb shock, while the textured cord smooths out water flow and reduces drag. Upgraded titanium swivels are corrosion-resistant and a helix-shaped overmould adds strength to an otherwise vulnerable component.
The cuff comes with a low-profile Velcro that’s actually stronger and more reliable than standard Velcro, 2mm neoprene padding for comfort, and silicone grip to prevent slippage around the ankle.
This leash works for 0- to 8-foot waves, so it’s an excellent choice for everyday surfing and will definitely stand the test of time.
Cord thickness: 6.5mm
Available lengths: 6′, 7′
Best budget leash: Catch Surf Beater
If you’re looking for an all-purpose surfboard leash that won’t break the bank, my pick is the Catch Surf Beater leash. This style is super budget-friendly without skimping on quality and reliability. (There are cheaper options from no-name brands online, but I don’t recommend you go there.)
The Beater has a stainless steel double swivel system that reduces tangling, triple-wrap railsaver for durability, quick-release cuff, and internal key pocket. If you typically don’t go bigger than a couple feet overhead, this leash is perfect. It also comes in some fun vivid colors (like neon pink and green) if you’re bored with the standard black.
I have one of these as a backup leash in my surf bag, but there’s no reason you can’t make this your main leash.
Cord thickness: 7mm
Available lengths: 6′, 8′
Best sustainable leash: Wave Tribe Eco
If you want to reduce your footprint on the planet, the Wave Tribe Eco is a solid choice. This surfboard leash is made from recycled plastic that’s been cleaned, melted down into flakes, then forced through a machine and stretched into a leash rope.
By that point, the leash is a far cry from the flimsy plastic it came from. The Wave Tribe team actually tried to pull a van across a parking lot with this leash, then watched it bounce back to its original length and shape. Now that’s stretchy!
Hopefully you’ll only be pulling your surfboard and not an entire vehicle, but if you break the leash within a year, they’ll replace it under warranty. The Wave Tribe Eco also features a stainless steel triple swivel that all but eliminates tangling, super strong Velcro, and key pocket.
Cord thickness: 7mm
Available lengths: 6′, 8′
Best longboard ankle leash: Dakine Longboard Ankle
If the FCS Freedom Helix Longboard leash is a bit out of your budget, the next best thing is this Dakine Longboard Ankle leash. As another trusted brand, Dakine makes high-quality products across several action sports industries, and surfing is no exception.
This longboard leash is perfect for logs up to 9′ and won’t get caught up under your feet. An ultra durable urethane cord and marine grade stainless steel swivels keep your board reliably tethered in waves up to a couple feet overhead.
You can’t go wrong with this choice if you prefer a comfortable, classic ankle attachment for a longboard leash. (There’s also a calf leash version.)
Cord thickness: 6.5mm
Available lengths: 9′, 9’6″
Best longboard calf leash: Creatures of Leisure Reliance Longboard Knee
Creatures of Leisure calls this style a knee leash, which is the same thing as a calf leash (worn below the knee on your calf). On days you want to take your log out for a mellow cruise, this longboard leash is long enough to stay out of the way when you start cross-stepping to the nose.
It’s not just for smaller surf however. The Creatures of Leisure Reliance Longboard leash can handle medium to large waves, and should anything go wrong, it comes with a quick-release tag on the non-slip cuff to let you bail out safely.
Even though you could use this leash for a 10′ board, I’d recommend it for a 9′ board if you like to noseride.
Cord thickness: 7mm
Available length: 10′
What to look for before buying a surfboard leash
Surfboard leashes should be the same length as your board, if not a little longer (and I go into more detail on how to pick the right size surfboard leash here). Always stay within 6 inches of your surfboard length for safety and a lower likelihood of tangling.
The exception here is for noseriding, where I recommend going up to 10′ on a leash to give you plenty of room to walk.
You’ve probably noticed that surfboard leashes come in a range of styles, from competition (“comp”) to big wave. The main difference between these leashes is the cord thickness: comp leashes tend to very thin and flexible for doing tricks in smaller surf, while big wave leashes are burly enough to withstand monster swells.
For everyday surfing, a 6mm to 7mm cord strikes a good balance between light weight and durability in waves a few feet overhead. Anything less and you might go swimming if your leash breaks, but anything more is overkill.
Some surfboard leashes have a hidden key pocket in the ankle cuff. This key pocket is great if you prefer to keep your key on your body, and not stashed in a car key lock box. But if your key is on the larger side, it’s not the most comfortable to wear around your ankle and obviously, won’t work if you have an electronic key, smart key, or keyless entry fob.
If you want to use the key pocket, your best option is to make a basic, mechanically-cut duplicate key that you can store in there without the bulk.
How long do surfboard leashes last?
For the typical surfer who gets out a few times a month and surfs average-sized waves, a surfboard leash should last three to five years with proper maintenance (which I go over in the next section below).
If you regularly ride big waves, however, it’s a good idea to replace your leash at the end of each season.
Taking care of your surfboard leash
Many people rinse off their surfboards after each session, but tend to overlook their leashes. Over time, the ocean and UV rays can take a toll on your leash, making it less durable and reliable.
When you’re out of the water, give the railsaver and cuff a quick freshwater rinse to get the saltwater and sand off, and keep the neoprene and webbing clean and comfortable. Avoid dragging your leash on the ground, slamming it in a door, using it to tie down other things, etc.
If you tend to go a few weeks between surfing, leave the leash long and straight—wrapping it around your board or fins can lead to kinks that make it more prone to tangling. Try to store your board out of direct sunlight (which also helps preserve your surf wax).
Every few surf sessions, check the cord for small abrasions or cuts and replace the leash if it looks a little worn. This simple maintenance routine takes just a few extra minutes and will help your leash last longer and stay put in the surf.